Category Archives: Food

Eating traditional foods for good health

A Summary of Sally Fallon’s Dietary Recommendations

as presented in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, compiled by Asphyxia

This document is a summary of the parts of the book which most grabbed my attention.  If you are interested in changing your health based on Fallon’s recommendations, it’s well worth having a read of the book itself.  I may have misinterpreted some of Fallon’s words – the following document should be used as a guide only, and it may contain errors. Happy reading – Asphyxia.

Download my Food Flower poster for a visual guide to eating well.

Much of Sally Fallon’s information regarding nutrition was sourced from Weston Price, a dentist who in the 1930s, travelled around the world to find communities yet untouched by modern civilisation.  He was fortunate to work at a time when modern civilisation had not yet inflitrated every corner of the world – today it is hard to find communities who live solely on traditional foods.  Price studied the health of the people he visited, noting that the health of their teeth seemed to be a particularly good indicator for their general health.  He studied their diets and other factors in their lifestyle, paying particular attention to diet once he noticed that in community after community, the health of the people seemed to deteriorate once modern foods became available.  He also took samples of their food home to his laboratory to study for vitamin, mineral and enzyme content, in an effort to understand whether the foods were superior in some way to modern foods.  Sally Fallon has compiled the information gathered by Weston Price about traditional diets, alongside recent research of food properties and their effects, into a book which provides information about how to choose and prepare foods that will nourish the body, as well as plenty of recipes for delicious and health-giving foods.

Weston Price and his findings

Price found that traditional communities embodied much wisdom in their diets, especially the Aborigines who are the oldest surviving people in the world, concluding that these people somehow had superior methods of trial and error than ours, when it came to finding methods of selecting and preparing foods to maximise health.  All the communities he visited, where they had access to foods from the sea, made ample use of this.  Communities that could not access the sea made use of meat and milk from animals.  By Price’s benchmarks for health testing, the communities who had no access to animal foods or sea foods, and forced to rely only on plant foods for nutrition, were slightly less healthy, those with animal products were healthier, and those who used sea foods liberally in their diets had the strongest constitutions.

Price also studied members of the traditional cultures who had been exposed to modern civilisation – in particular, foods of modern commerce such as white flour, refined sugar, and canned foods.  He found over and over again that those who ate modern diets developed caries on their teeth, and became susceptible to diseases such as tuberculosis.  The percentage of dental caries in traditional people who hadn’t been exposed to modern foods ranged from about 0.01% to 6%, while people who ate modern foods experienced between 25% to 50%.  He found that the number of caries increased proportionally with the amount of modern food included in the diet.  He also discovered inactive caries in some people who were eating solely traditional foods, and upon querying them, invariably found that these people had left their communities and entered the modern world for a year or two, developing the caries at that time.  The caries became inactive once they returned to their traditional foods.  Price also discovered that the first generation of children born after a community has adopted modern food have crowded teeth, narrowed dental arches, narrower nostrils (leading to a greater percentage of mouth breathers), and begin to require the services of a dentist.  Since modern food generally arrives in traditional communities long before the dentists do, the suffering from abscesses and decay often became extreme.

Although it is common knowledge that sugar causes tooth decay, Price came to believe that it is not the sugar sitting on the surface of the teeth that is the primary source of the decay, although this may play a role.  He understood that refined foods are devoid of the nutrients required to digest them, and thus to aid digestion, nutrients would be drawn from the body.  Once a certain level of deficiency occurs, the body draws nutrients from the teeth, making them susceptible to caries.  This also explains why the health of the teeth can be a good indicator of general health.  He also observed that our diets can impact the make up of our saliva, and came to believe that when our saliva is healthy it would protect the surface of our teeth.

After reading Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, in which he chronicles his studies as he traveled around the world, I came to the conclusion that if you want to have good teeth (and thus, good health!) you need to avoid all modern processed food, especially those containing refined flours, polished rice and refined sugar, and consume plenty of sea foods, animal foods from sources where the animals can free-range on organic pastures, and properly prepared plant foods.  If you want your children to have good teeth (and health), follow these recommendations before and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and feed your child in this way at least until their adult teeth erupt, to ensure good facial bone and tooth development.

Choosing and preparing food

The major food groups Fallon discusses are not defined by the food pyramid, which was developed by the department of agriculture as a marketing device to ensure that their milk and meat products were a staple in everyday diets.  Rather, Fallon describes food in terms of fats, dairy, protein, grains, salt, plant foods, nuts, legumes, and beverages.  She makes the following recommendations about how to choose and appropriately prepare foods from each group, to make them nourishing.

Dairy Foods

Dairy products were usually consumed in cultured form by traditional groups.  Lactose and casein (milk sugar) are present in milk and are particularly difficult for our bodies to digest.  Fermenting or culturing milk breaks down lactose and predigests casein, making it easier for us to digest.  Milk that comes from cows that are allowed to graze on grass, and thus also consume the small insects in the grass, contains a rich supply of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting properties.  Most commercial milk comes from grain-fed cows, even organic milk, but biodynamic practices require that cows be allowed to graze.

While we have been taught that pasteurisation is beneficial, it destroys the helpful organisms that are present in raw milk which help to protect against pathogens.  Raw milk in time turns pleasantly sour, while pasteurised milk, lacking beneficial bacteria, will putrefy.  Pasteurisation also changes some of the amino acids in the milk, making the proteins less readily absorbed by our bodies, as well as reducing the availability of calcium, magnesium, potassium and other minerals in the milk.  It also destroys enzymes in the milk which help us absorb calcium and other minerals – this is why those who drink pasteurised milk may suffer from osteoporosis.  Thus modern pasteurised milk from grain-fed cows puts an enormous strain on our body’s digestive mechanism, preventing the absorption of vital nutrients, leading to allergies, fatigue and degenerative diseases.

Fermented milk is consumed daily by traditional cultures around the world – in the west we are familiar with yoghurt, in Russia a popular beverage is kefir (slightly effervescent fermented cow, goat or sheep milk), in Scandinavian cultures longfil is made, which keeps for months, in the Middle East milk is soured to produce laban, and in India dahi, a soured milk, is consumed with every meal.  Research has shown that regular consumption of cultured dairy products lowers cholesterol and protects against bone loss, as well as providing beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to the digestive tract which help us to maximise nutrient absorption from the food we consume.  These friendly creatures and their by-products keep pathogens at bay and guard against infectious illness.  This could explain why so many traditional societies insist on giving fermented milk products to the sick, the aged and nursing mothers as they are so valued for their health-promoting properties.

Fallon recommends that you obtain the best quality milk possible – preferably raw milk from cows that eat organic grass.  Milk should be consumed in its uncultured form only on occasion – most of the milk in your diet should be cultured.

Stocks

An unfortunate outcome of our hurry-up, throwaway lifestyle has been a decline in the use of fish, chicken and meat stocks.  Our ancestors made use of every part of an animal by preparing stock or broth from the bony portions.  Meat and fish stocks are used almost universally in traditional cuisines – French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Russian.  Properly prepared, stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate.  Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw the minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium, into the broth.

One of the many benefits of meat stock is the gelatin it contains.  Large amounts of research show the beneficial effects of gelatin taken with food, as it aids digestion.  Gelatin has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including colitis and Crohn’s disease, many chronic disorders, anemia, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and even cancer.  Although it’s not a complete protein, it allows the body to more fully untilise the complete proteins that are taken in.  Fallon claims gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets.  Components of cartilage, which also go into the broth, have recently been used with remarkable results in the treatment of cancer and bone disorders.  Another component, collagen, is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments.  Chicken soup, the traditional remedy for colds and flu, has actually been confirmed by modern research as helping to prevent and mitigate infectious diseases.  The food provider who uses gelatin-rich broth on a daily or frequent basis provides continuous protection from many health problems.  If your broth thickens when chilled, it contains liberal amounts of gelatin.

Fish stock, made from the carcasses and heads of fish, is especially rich in minerals including all-important iodine.  The fish head includes thyroid glands, which have traditionally been used by the Chinese to help people feel younger, give them more energy, and restore mental abilities.  According to some researchers, at least 40% of Americans suffer from a deficiency of the thyroid gland, with its accompianing symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, frequent colds and flu, inability to concentrate, depression and a host of more serious complications like heart disease and cancer.  We would do well to follow the Mediterranean and Asian tradition of including fish broth in the diet as often as possible.

The wonderful thing about stock is that as well as conferring many health benefits, they improve the flavour of our food dramatically.  Fallon recommends always cooking brown rice in stock, even if it is to be used for dessert or porridge.  Grains, soups, sauces, and stews can all be cooked with stock.

Fermented vegetables and fruits

In earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables and fruits for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines.  This was done through a process of lacto-fermentation.  Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria.  Lactobacilli bacteria are present on the surface of all living things, and with simple techniques they can be encouraged to proliferate, enhancing the digestibility of the food and increasing the vitamin level. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.  Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.  Fallon quotes from Schoneck’s book Des Crudites Toute L’Anee: “Professor Zabel observed that sick people always lack digestive juices, not only during the acute phase of their illness but also for a long time afterwards.  He never saw a cancer victim that had healthy intestinal flora.  Lacto-fermented foods are a valuable aid to the cancer patient.  They are rich in vitamins and minerals and contain the enzymes that cancer patients lack.  Of particular value are lacto-fermented beets, which have a very favourable effect on disturbed cellular function.  Many scientific studies have demonstrated that beets have a regenerating effect on the body.”

The practice of preserving vegetables and fruit by lacto-fermentation is almost universal.  In Europe sauerkraut is a popular condiment, prized for its delicious taste as well as its medicinal properties.  Cucumbers, beets and turnips are also traditionally lacto-fermented in Europe.  In Russia and Poland one finds pickled green tomatoes, peppers and lettuces.  In Japan, China and Korea preparations of cabbage, turnip, eggplant, cucumber, onion, squash and carrot are part of the traditional diet.  Korean kimchi, is a lacto-fermented cabbage with other vegetables, eaten on a daily basis, and no Japanese meal is complete without a portion of pickled vegetable.

It’s easy to make lacto-fermented condiments.  Fruits and vegetables are washed, chopped, mixed with salt, herbs or spices, then pounded to release juices.  They are then pressed into an air tight container.  Salt inhibits putrefying bacteria for several days until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months.  The amount of salt can be reduced if whey is added, serving as an innoculant and reducing the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to occur to preserve the food.

Since lacto-fermentation does not lend itself well to commercialisation, foods that have traditionally been lacto-fermented are now sold on supermarket shelves with vinegar to replicate the sour taste, and the jars have been pasteurised, killing all the inherent lactic-acid-producing bacteria, robbing consumers of their beneficial effect on digestion.  Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses, such as AIDS, chronic fatigue, cancer, arthritis.  They are equally mystified by increases in intestinal parasites, and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless.  Fallon suggests that by abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and our by our insistence that everything be pasteurised, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic micro-organisms.  If so, the cure will not be found in drugs or antibiotics, but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world.

Grains, nuts and seeds

While nutritionists recommend eating whole grains rather than refined flours and polished rice, this advice as interpreted in modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas and other immediate recipes, is misleading.  Our ancestors and virtually all pre-industrialised people soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles.  Grain recipes from around the world prove this point: in India rice and lentils are fermented for at least two days before they are prepared as idli and dosas; in Africa the natives soak ground corn overnight before adding it to soups and stews; and they ferment corn or millet for several day sto produce a sour porridge called ogi; a similar dish made from oats was traditional among the Welsh; in some Oriental and Latin American countries rice receives a long fermentation before it is prepared; Ethiopians make their distinctive injera bread by soaking a grain called teff for several days; Europeans made sourdough breads, pancakes and biscuits, and soaked their grains overnight or for several days in water or soured milk before they were cooked and served as porridge or gruel.  While we do not know how our ancestors knew to soak and ferment their grains, modern research has discovered the wisdom in these practices.  All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer.  Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption.  This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains puts enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism, and may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and illnesses such as allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion, bone loss and candida albicans overgrowth.  The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome, and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.  Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralise phytic acid.  As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralise a large portion of phytic acid in grains.  The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits.  Soaking seeds in warm water also neutralises enzyme inhibitors and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes.  The action of these enzymes increases the amounts of many vitamins, especially B vitamins.

Grains containing gluten, such as oats, rye, barley and especially wheat, should not be consumed unless they have been soaked or fermented.  Buckwheat, rice and millet do not contain gluten and are more easily digested.  Whole rice and whole millet contain lower amounts of phytates than other grains so it’s not absolutely necessary to soak them, though they should be cooked for at least two hours in a high-mineral, gelatinous broth to neutralise the phytates they do contain, and provide additional minerals to compensate for those that are still bound.  Traditional recipes call for soaking corn or corn flour in lime water to release vitamin B3 which otherwise remains bound in the grain.  If corn plays a large part of your diet, it is important to do this to avoid the deficiency disease pellagra.

Fallon warns against granola, or puffed grains, a popular “health” food that is extremely indigestible.  These cereals are made by the extrusion process, in which little flakes and shapes are formed at high temperatures and pressures.  Extrusion processing destroys many valuable nutrients in grains, causes oils to become rancid, and renders certain proteins toxic.  This means puffed rice or corn crackers and boxed cereals should not be included in the diet.

Apparently in the past we ate most of our grains in partially germinated form, as grain standing in sheaves and stacks in open fields often began to sprout before it was brought into storage.  Modern farming techniques prevent grains from germinating before they reach our tables.  The process of germination produces vitamin C, and changes the composition of grain and seeds in numerous beneficial ways.  Sprouting increases vitamin B content, and carotene.  Sprouting also neutralises phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains that inhibits absoption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc, and neutralises enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds.  Complex sugars that cause intestinal gas are broken down during sprouting, and a portion of the starch in grain is transformed into sugar.  Sprouting inactivates aflatoxins, potent carcinogens found in grains.  Finally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process.  Sprouted grains should be a regular feature of the diet, used in salads, sandwiches, vegetable dishes, as breakfast cereals and as additions to breads and baked goods.  However, Fallon warns against over-consumption of raw sprouted grains as raw sprouts contain irritating substances that keep animals from eating the tender shoots.  These substances are neutralised in cooking, so the sprouted grains should be lightly steamed or added to soups and casseroles.  Surprisingly, Fallon advises against eating alfalfa as tests have shown that these sprouts inhibit the immune system and can contribute to inflammatory arthritis and lupus.  Alfalfa seeds contain an amino acid which is toxic to humans and animals when consumed in quantity.

Fats

You may have heard that eating a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol can cause coronary heart disease.  This theory was proposed in the late 1950s by a researcher named Ancel Keys, and is called the lipid hypothesis.  Numerous subsequent researches have pointed out flaws in his data and conclusions, yet Keys received far more publicity than those presenting alternative views.  Vegetable oil and food processing industries, who stood to benefit from Keys’ idea, worked to promote further research that would support the lipid hypothesis.  Most people would be surprised to learn there is very little evidence to support the contention that a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat actually reduces death from heart disease or increases one’s lifespan in any way.  While in the 1920s heart disease was extremely rare, today heart disease causes at least 40% of all US deaths – if it is truly caused by consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American diet, but the use of both traditional animal fat and butter has declined dramatically.  Fallon cites numerous studies which show communities where people on traditional diets with fats solely of animal origin have very little heart disease, while the same people, when eating a modern diet, that includes margarine and vegetable oils, have high levels of the disease.  The French have a diet loaded with saturated fat in the form of butter, eggs, cheese, cream, liver, meats and rich pates, and yet they have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries  less than half that of the USA.  (The French do suffer degenerative diseases though – they eat large amounts of refined sugar and white flour.)

Fallon says that it’s just plain wrong that saturated fats cause heart disease and cancer, but it is true that some fats are bad for us.  She advises against eating polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and canola.  Excess consumption of these oils have been shown to contribute to a large number of diseases including cancer, heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability and weight gain.  These oils go rancid when cooked, creating free-radicals that attack cell membranes and red blood cells, causing damage within our bodies, leading to skin wrinkles, premature aging, tumours and autoimmune diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and cataracts.   Another problem with these oils is that they contain large amounts of omega-6 linoleic acid, with very little omega-3 linolenic acid.  Omegas 3 and 6 should be consumed in a one-to-one ratio with each other, and a diet that contains a lot of omega-6 without the corresponding omega-3 can lead to inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, cancer and weight gain.  Modern agricultural and industrial practices have reduced the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in commercially available vegetables, eggs, fish and meat.  For example, organic eggs from hens allowed to feed on insects and green plants can contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio, while commercial supermarket eggs from hens fed mostly grain can contain as much as 19 times more omega-6 than omega-3.

Fallon states that rather than being a food to avoid, saturated fats actually enhance the immune system, reduces the likelihood of heart disease, and perform numerous other beneficial actions within our bodies.  Similarly cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease but a potent anti-oxidant weapon against free-radicals in the blood, and a substance that helps to repair and heal arterial damage.  However, cholesterol can be damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen, causing injury to arterial cells.  Damaged cholesterol is found in powdered milk, powdered eggs, meats and fats that have been heated to high temperatures in frying and other high-temperature processes.  Fallon says that the cause of heart disease is not animal fats and cholesterol but a number of factors in modern diets such as excess consumption of vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats, excess consumption of refined sugar and white flour, mineral deficiencies and vitamin deficiencies, and the disappearance of animal fats and tropical oils from the food supply.

Hydrogenation is a process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature such as margarine and shortening.  Manufacturers take cheap oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed or canola (already rancid from the heat used to extract them from the plant), mix them with tiny metal particles, and subject them to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor.  Next soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into it to give it a better consistency.  The oil is then subjected to more high temperatures as it is steam cleaned.  Margarine’s natural colour, an unappetising grey, is removed by bleach.  Dyes and strong flavours are added to make it resembled butter.  Finally the mixture is packed in tubs and sold as a health food.  Trans-fats are even worse for you as they are toxic to our bodies, but our bodies don’t recognise the toxicity – instead our bodies incorporate trans fats into the cell membranes, where they wreak havoc with cell metabolism.  Consumption of hydrogenated and trans fats is associated with a host of serious diseases including paralysis of the immune system, cancer, diabetes, obesity, birth defects, difficulty with lactation and problems with bones and tendons.  Your best defense is to avoid them like the plague.

Fallon recommends eating butter, which is a valued component of many traditional diets, and a source of fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, lecithin, good cholesterol, trace minerals, beneficial arachidonic acid, and more.  Traditional groups especially valued the butter produced by cows feeding on rapidly growing grass, such as during spring-time.  Price analysed this deep yellow butter and found it exceptionally high in all fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin A.  These vitamins cause us to utilise the vitamins and minerals we ingest, both from fat-soluble and water-soluble sources.   Not all the societies Price visited ate butter, but the groups he observed all went to great lengths to obtain foods high in fat-soluble vitamins – fish, shellfish, fish eggs, organ meats, blubber of sea animals and insects.  Without knowing the names of the vitamins contained in these foods, isolated traditional societies recognised their importance and liberaly ate animal products containing them.  They rightly believed such foods to be necessary for fertility and optimum development of children.  Butter should be added to vegetables, spread onto bread, and cream should be added to soups and sauces, to ensure proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in vegetables, grains and meat.  Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants – it should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and it should have a golden yellow colour, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives.  This is the safest vegetable oil you can use but don’t overdo.  Tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil are more saturated than other vegetable oils, and can be kept at room temperature many months without becoming rancid.  They are suitable for baking and cooking.

Fallon concludes that our choice of fats and oil are of extreme importance, and most people, especially babies and children, benefit from more fat in their diet rather than less.  Avoid all processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils.  Instead use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil.  Use coconut oil for baking and animal fats (duck, goose, chicken fat) for occasional frying.  Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached.  And use as much good quality butter as you like, with the assurance that it is a wholesome essential food for you and your family.

Meat

Fallon cites numerous examples that show meat-eaters having healthier, longer lives than vegetarians, but cautions us to obtain organic meat from pasture-fed animals.  She also points to research that shows meats cooked at very high temperatures contain elevated amounts of carcinogens. Charcoal grilled meats and smoked foods contain chemicals that induce cancer in laboratory animals, yet our ancestors ate smoked meats and fish liberally.  There were probably factors in their diet that protected them against these carcinogens.  Modern humans are advised to eat smoked and barbequed meats sparingly. Investigation into the effects of pork consumption on blood chemistry has revealed serious changes for several hours after the pork was consumed – even when using organic pork.  In the laboratory, pork is one of the best mediums for feeding the growth of cancer cells.  The prohibitions against pork found in the Bible and the Koran may thus derive from something other than a concern for parasite contamination.  But it must be noted that many groups who experience longevity do consume pork meat and lard on a daily basis.  Meat should be eaten raw, rare or braised in water or stock.  Pathogens in raw meat can be killed by freezing it for 14 days, and the fat should be consumed with the meat.

Almost all traditional cultures prize organ meats for their ability to build reserves of strength and vitality.  Organ meats such as liver have disappeared from our tables, but even our grandparents remember the day when liver was served once a week.  Be sure to buy organic liver – although organic liver may contain some toxic substances, its nutritive value outweighs the danger of toxins it contains.  Fallon advises for those who feel squeamish about organ meats, to begin with sweetbreads (part of the thymus gland of the young calf) which do not have a strong flavour, then graduate to liver, kidney, heart and brains.  They can also be chopped finely and added to any meat dish, or grated into brown rice when cooking to feed your family without their knowledge.

Fish

Fish, Fallon says, is the health food par excellence, as noted by Price in his studies.  Consumption of fish promotes excellent growth and bone structure, protects from degenerative diseases, and reduces coronary heart disease.  All ocean fish are excellent sources fat-soluble vitamins and of macro and trace minerals – our soils may be depleted but every one we need exists in the ocean.  Mackerel, anchovies and herring are particularly rich in mineral nutrients.  Deep-sea oily fish such as salmon, tuna and swordfish are good sources of omega-3. Beware of fish from the shoreline waters near industrial areas or from contaminated freshwaters, especially catfish, carp and other scavengers, as they can contain mercury, and for the same reason avoid an overconsumption of shellfish. Shellfish such as scallops, clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, crab and lobster are highly prized by traditional people.  They are rich in fat-soluble nutrients and should be eaten very fresh and in season.  You needn’t worry about mercury levels in deep-sea fish such as salmon, tuna and swordfish, or from sole or flounder that come from relatively clean waters.  Avoid farm-raised fish as they are often given inappropriate feed such as soy pellets containing pesticide residues.

Raw fish should be marinated in an acid solution of lime juice, lemon juice or whey to kill off parasites and pathogens, and also pre-digests the fish to make it easier for us to digest.  Fallon does not recommend sushi, which contains raw fish that hasn’t been marinated.  Be sure to include fish eggs in your diet, which are highly nourishing.

Eggs

Eggs have been shunned by health advocates for decades as being high in cholesterol, wrongly throught to cause coronary heart desease.  Eggs from healthy free-range chickens are rich in just about every nutrient we have yet discovered, especially fat-soluble vitamins A and D.  Eggs from chickens that are fed flax seeds, fish meal, or pasture-fed so they can eat bugs and worms, provide the best nutrients.  In particular they contain an even ration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (necessary for the development of the brain), whereas in chickens fed only grains the omega-6 content can be as much as 19 times greater than the all important omega-3.  There has been some publicity about salmonella infections from eggs – the blame for this problem lies with crowded production methods that require extensive use of antibiotics in feed.  Eggs from pasture-fed hens pose no danger provided they have been properly refrigerated.  It’s fine to eat raw yolks of fresh eggs, but raw egg whites should be consumed only on occasion.  Raw egg whites contain a substance called avidin, which interferes with the absoption of biotin, a B vitamin; they also contain trypsin inhibitors, which interfere with protein digestion.  These antinutrients are neutralised by light cooking.

Sugar

Scientific evidence against sugar has been mounting for decades.  Research has showed that increased sugar consumption can lead to cancer, heart disease, hyperactivity, anorexia, eating disorders, an increase in blood insulin levels, hyperactivity, behavior problems, lack of concentration and violent tendenceis.  Research indicates that it is fructose, not glucose, which is most harmful, especially for children.  Sugar consumption is the cause of bone loss and dental decay.  Tooth decay and bone loss occur when the precise ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the blood varies from the normal ratio.  Dr Melvin Page, a dentist, demonstrated in numerous studies that sugar consumption causes phosphorus levels to drop and calcium to rise.  The calcium rises because it is pulled from the teeth and bones.  The drop in phosphorus hinders the absorption of this calcium, making it unusable and therefore toxic.  Thus sugar consumption causes tooth decay not because it promotes bacterial growth in the mouth, as most dentists believe, but because it alters the internal body chemistry.  Sweet foods from which sugar is extraced, such as sugar beet, sugar cane and corn, are particularly high in nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium and chromium.  All of these seem to play an important role in the blood sugar mechanism.  Refined sugar is stripped of these nutrients, while concentrating the sugar, thus allowing us to fulfill our body’s energy requirements without obtaining the nutrients needed for bodybuilding, digestion and repair. Refined sugar also plays havoc with intestinal flora, fostering overgrowth of candida albicans and other fungi.  Avoid all refined sugars including so-called raw sugar and brown sugar, corn syrum, fructose and large amounts of fruit jucie.  Eat only unrefined sweeteners such as raw honey, rapadura sugar (dried sugar cane juice), maple syrup and dates.  Moderate use of natural sweeteners is found in many traditional societies so satisfy your sweet tooth with fully ripened fruit in season and limited amounts of unrefined sweeteners.

Beverages

It is difficult to think of a popular beverage that is healthy – tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and even fruit juice should all be avoided because they contain caffeine, concentrated sugars or large amounts of alcohol.  A survey of popular ethnic beverages will show that the fermentation of grains and fruits to make refreshing and health-promoting drinks is almost universal.  Fermented tea is found throughout Asia and Europe, munkoyo is a beer of Zambia with less than 0.5% alcohol, kaffir beer, a thick millet brew is the national drink of blacks in South Africa, kvass is the national Russian drink, Middle Europeans drink kiesel, Mexicans drink pulque made of cactus juice and palm wine, and so on.  Fallon includes recipes for several fermented beverages that include a small amount of homemade whey and a little sea salt, which encourage the proliferation of beneficial bacteria.  Whey has been used since ancient times as a medicinal aid, and is very nourishing.  Throughout the world these lactic-acid drinks have been valued for medicinal qualities, including the ability to relieve intestinal problems and constipation, promote lactation, strengthen the sick and promote overall well-being and stamina.  These drinks were considered superior to plain water, which may be poorly absorbed by the body.  Modern research has discovered that liquids containing dilute sugars and electrolytes of minerals (mineral ions) are absorbed faster and retained longer than plain water.  This research is used to promote commercial sports drinks that are merely high-sugar concoctions containing small amounts of electrolytes.  But natural lactic-acid fermented drinks contain numerous valuable minerals in ionised form, and a small amount of sugar, along with lactic acid and beneficial lactobacilli, all of which promote good health in many ways, while at the same time reducing the sensation of thirst.    Soft-drinks, alcoholic beverages and even plain water are poor substitutes for these health-promoting beverages.  Taken with meals they promote absorbtion of vitamins and minerals in the food, and taken after physical labour they replace lost mineral ions.  Fallon offers the theory that the craving for alcohol, as well as the craving for soft drinks, stems from an ancient collective memory of the kind of lacto-fermented beverages still found in traditional societies.

Kvass

3 large organic beetroot, peeled and diced, ¼ cup whey or ¼ cup of a previous batch of kvass, 1 tsp salt.  Place ingredients into a 2 litre jar or jug, fill with water, cover, and leave for two days.  Strain and place in the fridge.  You can use the beets and a little of the liquid for another batch, which will be weaker, then discard the beets and start again.  You can make whey by placing a clean tea towel in a cup and adding a generous scoop of yoghurt.  Lift the tea towel slightly, and the whey will drip through.

Sally Fallon says kvass is a Russian national drink which contains less than 1% alcohol and is used to treat the sick. “It’s better to put your money into whole foods than vitamins…  Lacto-fermented beet kvass contains a large array of nutrients in easily assimilated form and is simple and inexpensive to make.”  Schoneck’s book Des Crudites Toute L’Anee: “Of particular value are lacto-fermented beets, which have a very favourable effect on disturbed cellular function.  Many scientific studies have deomnstrated that beets have a regenerating effect on the body.”  Kyivska’s book Ukranian Dishes: “No Ukranian home was ever without its beet kvass.  The kvass was always handy and ready when a pleasing sour flavour had to be added to soups and vinaigrettes.”

Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting a mixture of water, organic black tea, white sugar and kombucha “mushroom” for several days or weeks.

It may seem ironic to recommend a drink which is made with black tea and white sugar, after warning against these substances.  However, the kombucha “mushroom” (actually a colony of yeast and bacteria) acts on the sugar and tea to produce not only acetic and lactic acid, but also small amounts of a potent detoxifying substance, glucuronic acid.  Normally this acid is produced by the liver and is used to neutralise toxins in the body – both naturally occuring toxins and toxins that have been ingested.  However, when liver function becomes overloaded, certainly the case with most of us today, additional glucuronic acid taken in the form of kombucha is said to be a powerful aid to the body’s natural cleansing process, a boost to the immune system, and a proven prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases.  The Soviet experience is part of the large body of documentary evidence that the beverage made from kombucha fermentation of tea and sugar, is, indeed, a dramatic immune system booster and body detoxifier.  In her limited-time and budget section, Fallon recommends making Kombucha tea – after purchasing the mushroom (which is inexpensive – search on Google), batch after batch can be made at very little cost.  The Kombucha can be made with rapadura sugar, but the largest amount of glucuronic acid occurs with white sugar and black tea.  Always use organic tea as non-organic tea is high in flouride.  Flouride is an enzyme-inhibitor that contributes to bone loss, bone deformities, cancer and a host of other illnesses.  It offers little real protection against tooth decay.[1]

General Tips

  • If you are pressed for time, aim to find one four to five hour block of time each week to dedicate to food preparation – if you can’t find this you would be wise to re-evaluate your priorities.  Use the time to shop, put up a batch of vegetable ferments, put on a stock, bake some biscuits or muffins, and start a beverage.
  • When preparing a meal, think ahead to the next two meals and soak any grains required for them – the secret is in good planning rather than hours in the kitchen.
  • Always buy real butter, and use this or lard for fat.
  • Buy only unrefind sea salt, preferably celtic sea salt.
  • Make stock at least once a week – often fish carcasses can be obtained for free.  Use congealed fat from stocks instead of oil when cooking. Make soups part of your repertoire, using this stock.  Also cook brown rice and other grains in stock, and make them every week too.
  • Don’t buy boxed cereals – instead use organic oats and soak them overnight to make a porridge for breakfast.
  • Make your own salad dressings – with practice it takes no more than a minute to create a delicious dressing.
  • Instead of taking vitamins, drink beetroot kvass.  Consider a daily teaspoon of cod liver oil, and of Azomite powder.
  • If you can’t afford caviar, buy fish roe in the spring, use it to make fish cakes and store in the freezer to use throughout the year.
  • Don’t forget to eat liver occasionally – it’s worth its weight in gold, nutritionally speaking.
  • Once a week bake a batch of healthy biscuits for your children’s lunches.
  • Make kombucha tea – it’s inexpensive and a powerful booster for the immune system.
  • If your budget is limited, cut out junk food, prepared biscuits and cakes, soft drinks, frozen foods, fast foods etc, and use the savings to buy good quality butter, eggs and dairy products.  Buy organic whole grains in bulk and store them in covered plastic buckets, available from paint shops.  Above all, buy good qualiy fats.

 

Sally Fallon’s Guide To Food Selection

Nourishing Traditional Foods

Fallon recommends we eat a varied diet of the following foods:

  • Proteins: Fresh pasture-raised meat, organ meat from pastured animals, seafood of all types from deep sea waters, fresh shellfish in season, fish eggs, fresh eggs from pastured poultry, organic fermented soy products in small amounts.
  • Fats: Fresh butter and cream from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and cultured, lard and fat from beef, lamb, geese and ducks that have been pastured; extra virgin olive oil; unrefined flax seed oil in small amounts, coconut oil and palm oil.
  • Dairy: Raw whole milk and cultured dairy products from traditional breeds of pasture-fed cows and goats.
  • Carbohydrates: Organic whole grain products that have been soaked, sprouted or fermented; soaked fermented legumes; sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds; fresh fruit and vegetables both raw and cooked; fermented vegetables.
  • Beverages: Filtered high-mineral water, lacto-fermented drinks made from grain or fruit, meat stocks and vegetable broths.
  • Condiments: Unrefined sea salt; raw vinegar; spices in moderation; fresh herbs; naturally fermented soy sauce and fish sauce.

Compromise Foods

Fallon says that healthy people can eat the following foods in moderate amounts:

  • Proteins: Pork, fish from shallow waters, commercially raised meat, BBQ’d or smoked meats, traditionally made additive-free sausage, additive-free bacon, battery eggs, tofu in very small amounts.
  • Fats: Unrefined peanut and sesame oils.
  • Dairy: Raw whole uncultured milk from conventional dairies, pasteurised cultured milk products, pasteurised cheeses, melted cheeses.
  • Carbohydrates: Whole grains not treated for phytates such as quick-rise breads and pasta, unbleached white flour, canned legumes, thin-skinned fruits and vegetables imported from long distances, canned tomato products, well-cooked unsprayed seaweeds, natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, rapadura and date sugar.
  • Beverages: Wine or unpasteurised beer in moderation with meals, diluted fruit juices, herbal teas.
  • Condiments: Commercial salt, pasteurised vinegar, canned condiments without MSG.

Modern “Foods”

Fallon advises that these foods are best avoided by everyone:

  • Proteins: Processed meats containing additives and preservatives such as lunch meat, salami and bacon; hydrolised protein and protein isolates; soy milk.
  • Fats: All highly processed vegetable oils, margarine, tub spreads, vegetable shortenings, fat substitutes, foods fried in vegetable oils, lowfat products.
  • Dairy: Pasteurised homogenised commercial milk; ultrapasteurised cream and milk; processed cheeses, reduced-fat dairy products.
  • Carbohydrates: Bleached and “fortified” white flour products, commercial dry cereals, granolas, refined sugar in all forms, irradiated and genetically modified grains fruits and vegetables; most canned products; chocolate.
  • Beverages: Soft drinks; distilled or pasteurised alcohol products; full strength fruit juices; commercial rice and oat milks, coffee, tea and cocoa.
  • Condiments: Commercial baking powder; MSG; artificial flavours, additives and colours; chemically produced food preservatives; aspartame.

Health Recovery

In her book Eat Fat Lose Fat, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon include a chapter on Health Recovery, with a recommended diet to assist recovery from numerous conditions including:

  • adrenal weakness: reduced libido, low energy, fatigue, chronic fatigue, stress
  • allergies and hay fever, asthma,
  • constipation, diabetes and insulin resistance,
  • anxiety, depression, mood swings,  food cravings, fungal infections, candida, gallbladder ailments,
  • hormonal imbalances, hypoglycemia, immune problems and autoimmune disorders,
  • irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and Crohn’s disease,
  • skin problems – eczema, dry skin, wrinkles, scaly patches, hair loss, thyroid imbalances,
  • colds and flu, viral infections – Epstein-Barr, Herpes, and HIV/AIDS

For each condition, Fallon gives specific advice, but following her diet should dramatically improve or completely cure all the above conditions. The emphasis is on consuming nutrient dense foods, and consuming butter, fermented beverages and condiments which will assist with the absorbtion of these nutrients.  In societies where people eat traditional foods, they are far healthier than us, and their everyday diets contain many times the recommended daily requirements of various vitamins and minerals.  In times of illness, stress, recovery, pre-conception, pregnancy and lactation, traditional people usually added in special foods, in particular liver, raw milk, raw meat and fish, and bone broths, to provide extra nutrition.  Fallon’s diet is a modern-day adaptation of the methods used by traditional people.

I have been following her recommendations for some time now and I have found I feel satisfied, my health has dramatically improved, my skin is blemish-free and lines have vanished, my period pain has just about disappeared, and I have more energy and clarity of mind.

Key features of the Health Recovery Diet

Consume lots of coconut oil and other coconut products.  Fallon advises 1-2 tablespoons of the oil dissolved in warm water before each meal, three times a day.  If you have trouble digesting this add in ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar or swedish bitters to support your liver.  The first time I tried this I felt nauseous afterwards, but when I added in the vinegar it went down fine.  Coconut oil is the fat most easily converted to energy and is not stored as fat in your body.  It helps you feel satiated until your next meal, thus relieving problems related to hypoglycemia, mood swings and depression which can result from low blood sugar. Flu is caused by a virus with a lipid coating, which coconut oil causes to disintegrate, while beneficial bacteria have a sugar coating – coconut oil encourages the growth of this type of bacteria.  Coconut oil is also antifungal, ideal for fighting candida.  Since I can’t bear to do the coconut oil in warm water more than once or twice a day, I’ve been making treats with coconut oil to eat instead.  I melt coconut oil then add carob powder and vanilla essence (or a drop of peppermint oil), or I add dessicated coconut with some sugar and one of: vanilla essence or lemon juice or carob powder.  Pour into trays or chocolate moulds and refrigerate.  If using a tray, cut into slices when set.  Store in the fridge, and grab a couple when you go out for emergency snacks. Coconut Oil is available cheaply in Melbourne from Naturally On High, in High St Thornbury – take your own container and ask them to fill it.

Supplementing with cod liver oil to provide vitamins A and D.  Fallon advises that for health recovery you should take enough cod liver oil to provide 20,000 IU of vitamin A daily.  Some cod liver oil supplements contain very small amounts, but from most organic shops you can buy Melrose brand which is quite acceptable.  High vitamin cod liver oil is available from Green Pastures – it’s quite expensive but you can take a lot less of it.  If possible, buy the fermented version.

Half a teaspoon of high vitamin butter oil daily.  (Available from Green Pastures.  Or buy raw organic butter from cows eating rapidly growing grass in spring, and store it for use during the year.)  Take the butter oil with the cod liver oil as it causes the cod liver oil to be absorbed far better, and the benefits of the oil are greatly magnified.

Consume biodynamic liver daily.  Fallon advises 4 capsules of desiccated liver (available from Green Pastures).  This is equivalent to about 2 tsp of dry liver, probably about 4 tsp of fresh liver.  Instead of capsules you could eat this as a pate, or freeze for 2 weeks to kill pathogens and then chop into small pieces to swallow down raw (especially beneficial).

¼ tsp acerola powder for increased vitamin C – I don’t take this as I prefer to get my vitamin C from fruit and kimchi.

Homemade bone broths.  Fallon’s diet includes 1-2 serves of broth or soup each day.  You can sip miso soup from a cup like a drink, or have a small bowl of soup as a snack.  The gelatin and minerals in the broth are key to relieving fatigue, asthma, allergies, diabetes and digestive disorders.

Lacto-fermented beverages.  Half to one cup of these three times a day, to provide nutrients and enzymes which help you absorb the nutrients from your food.  These are key to relieving digestive disorders, kidney problems, skin disorders, allergies, asthma, and alleviating food and allergy cravings.  Two of the most beneficial are beet kvass (half a cup morning and night), and kombucha (half to one cup daily).

Raw animal foods.  Fallon advises a raw milk drink every day – her tonic is made of an egg yolk (the whites are best not eaten raw as they contain a substance that can prevent us from aborbing nutriets), a teaspoon of molasses and the rest of milk.  I can’t stand the molasses but I often have raw buttermilk smoothies, or I heat raw milk to body temperature and stir in a tiny bit of maple syrup on honey.  If you can’t drink raw milk have a cocnut milk tonic instead (mix a can of coconut milk with a teaspoon of dolomite powder, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1¾ cups water).  Eat raw fish and or raw meat a few times a week if possible. Also include fish eggs regularly.

Soaked wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Unsoaked, these contain phytates that can irritate our digestive tracts, preventing the absorbtion of nutrients.  Eat sourdough bread, and soak porridge and other grain products in warm water and a little whey for 12-24 hours before cooking.

Eliminate refined sugar, refined grains (white flour, white rice), vegetable oils, trans-fats (in most processed packaged foods and in fish and chips), puffed grains (eg rice cakes, corn thins, cereals made with puffed grains) and soy products (soy should only be consumed thoroughly fermented), and any sauces and processed foods that may contain msg (very small amounts of msg may be included without being labelled).  You’ll notice after including daily all the above foods, the presence of non-nutritious foods is largely crowded out, making it easier to eliminate processed foods.

A sample meal plan for a day:

(This is how I have interpreted the recommendations and adapted them for me – Fallon’s meal plans are different.)

Upon rising

half to one glass of beet kvass with 20,000 IU of cod liver oil, ½ tsp butter oil.

Breakfast

1 tbsp coconut oil dissolved in warm water with ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar added.

Soaked oat porridge with raw butter and maple syrup or honey.

OR soaked pancakes with fruit, yoghurt, and “coconutty butter” (Ground crispy nuts mixed with coconut oil.)

OR eggs on wholegrain sourdough toast with raw butter.

Snack

Cup of miso soup or other broth, and a piece of fruit. A homemade sweet biscuit if I’m still hungry.

Lunch

Wholegrain sourdough toast spread with pate, and topped with tomato and kimchi.

Salad with home-made dressing

Coconut slice.

Snack

Raw milk drink or coconut milk tonic.  If I didn’t have pate at lunchtime I have some now, on crackers or toast.

Dinner

Glass of kombucha – I like this before dinner when others are going for wine.

Raw meat or fish appetiser, OR bowl of soup as an appetiser.

Main meal – whatever my partner cooks, including fresh vegies, soaked grains, salads, etc.

A coconut carob treat (warm coconut oil, stir in carob powder and vanilla, pour into chocolate moulds, refrigerate.)

Evening

Half a glass of kvass.  A bowl of homemade icecream with fruit if I want dessert.

[1] Yiamouyiannis, J, Flouride, The Aging Factor, 1986, Health Action Press, Delaware, OH.

Food flower poster to replace the food pyramid

Food flower poster to replace the food pyramid

Forget the food pyramid!  It was developed by the agricultural industry, not by nutritionists.  Print out the above poster instead, which shows traditional foods and how to eat them so you feel really satisfied and have great health.

Since I started eating this way, so many of my health problems have fallen away: period pain has disappeared, skin wrinkles suddenly smoothed out, warts disappeared, tinea (foot fungus) has ended after fifteen years, and generally when I get a cold or the flu I can fight it off quickly and easily, unlike before.

I made this poster because it’s a simple, visual way to show kids how to choose good foods to eat.  But I realised it’s probably a good guide for adults or anyone just getting started on traditional foods.

The poster above is high resolution, ready for you to print out A4 size, cut it along the “bleed lines”, laminate and stick to your fridge.  Click on it to open the full size image, and save it to your harddrive.  Enjoy!

Raw garlic to cure colds and flu

Since I discovered raw garlic to fend off colds and flu I’ve had way fewer illnesses than before.  A few times I’ve felt a really big nasty coming on real fast, and thanks to a few cloves of garlic I actually nipped them in the bud.  Eating raw garlic has also prevented my sore throats from getting to that absolutely terrible I-can’t-bear-to-swallow-or-be-alive stage which I used to go through a few times a year, and it’s also fended off that horrible nose-and-eyes-drip-constantly mid-part of a cold.  It doesn’t always work – if your immune system is trashed, see traditional foods for how to build it up again.

So, here’s how I take it.  It’s got to be fresh raw garlic – I don’t buy capsules or powder or anything like that.  If I chew it, I’ll have garlic breath for hours with even a single chomp of my front teeth, and it seems to cause stomach upsets sometimes too – go figure.  I get small cloves and swallow them whole, if possible, but crush them a bit first so they don’t come out completely undigested. I make sure the cloves are very small so there’s no risk of choking.  I usually chew up a decent mouthful of food, then just before I swallow, I pop the garlic in the back of my mouth and swallow it down with the rest of the food.  If I can’t get small enough cloves, I chop the garlic into pieces and swallow them down with water, without chewing.  If I do it this way, I always eat something first to line my stomach so it’s not too full on.

To make it more appealing for my child, I mix finely chopped pieces with honey before swallowing down with water.  If my stomach is sensitive, I take the garlic with food, and avoid chewing it. I think bigger pieces seem to cause less stomach upset than smaller pieces.

I’ve heard some people take a clove of raw garlic once a week as a preventative measure.  If I feel a real nasty coming on, I try to take three cloves of garlic between the first symptoms and when I go to bed for the night.  In the morning, I take another one, and by mid afternoon I usually feel heaps better.  I continue with one or two a day till my bug has gone.  Sometimes I feel the beginnings of a mild sore throat or a tingle in my nose, and in that case, often a single clove of garlic is enough to have me better by morning.

While I don’t get garlic breath from taking garlic in this way, twenty-four hours later, if I fart, it’ll stink like garlic, and if I’ve had a few doses, even my wee and sweat smell like garlic.  This is kinda gross, but I believe it’s far less gross than oozing snot for the next two weeks.

I’ve noticed best results if I rest at the same time.  Eating garlic and resting in the face of a nasty cold seems to throw it off without it even reaching its peak.  If it’s a mild one sometimes I can cheat and keep working full tilt, thanks to the garlic, but it sometimes comes back after a few days.  So I tuck myself into bed with a book for the afternoon or turn off the light earlier at night.  Goodluck!

PS if you found this interesting, you might be interested in other posts on this blog.  Check out the Guide To This Blog to find the most helpful posts.

PPS I am not a doctor, and the tips on my blog are simply things that have worked for me – they cannot be taken in place of medical advice.

Should we eat 100% raw food?

A friend suggested that since I wanted to improve my health, I should try eating only raw food.  When she switched to a raw diet she said she felt fantastic, had so much energy…

During my eleven days of eating only raw food, I was wondering how long it might take until I started feeling great. It certainly hadn’t happened in the first three days. I looked on many, many sites for their “proof” that it works. Most sites cited a Swiss guy called Kouchakoff, a researcher who discovered, in the 1930s, that when we eat cooked food, a reaction occurs in our blood – the same reaction that occurs when our immune system mounts a reaction to a foreign invader. He noticed that when we eat raw food, no reaction occurred. Is it possible that we are not “meant” to eat cooked food? Could it be that our immune systems are exhausted from the constant “management” of cooked food, leaving us vulnerable to illnesses? The raw food sites concluded a definite YES to both these questions, and advocate a 100% raw vegan diet. I wanted to find Kouchakoff’s actual published paper, because I wanted to know whether the blood reaction, which he refers to as “leukocytosis”, occurs when we eat animal products such as honey, dairy, eggs and raw fish. Do we really have to be “raw vegan” or is that just an overlay added by these raw foodists who themselves are vegan?

I finally found and read his paper, titled “The Influence Of Cooking On The Blood Formula Of Man”. I was pleased to see that he specifically mentioned the animal products I was interested in and said that eating them raw did not cause leukocytosis. What surprised me, however, was his statement, “It has been proved possible to take, without altering the blood formula, every kind of foodstuff which is habitually eaten now, but only by following this rule, viz: that it must be taken along with raw products, according to a definite formula.” To my disappointment, the details he gave about the formula weren’t comprehensive enough for me to be able to work out how to follow it. Mulling on this overnight, I realised I felt a bit cheated. The raw foodists are citing this paper as their primary source of scientific proof that we should eat 100% raw food, while Kouchakoff himself only recommends that to avoid leukocytosis we eat the right raw foods with our cooked food . The other thing is that Kouchakoff says the “critical temperature” at which a food begins to cause leukocytosis is individual to each food, but starts at around 87 degrees celsius. The raw food community advocates heating nothing above 38 degrees (or thereabouts). The more I thought about it, the more I thought the raw food community’s claims could not possibly be considered “corroborated” by this paper.

I started searching again – was this paper only a portion of their scientific “proof”? Another name came up – Dr Howell. I had a look into his research and found that the temperature guide used by the raw food community must have been taken from him – he discovered that food heated above approx 40 degrees lost their living enzymes. But I also took his research with a grain of salt – firstly because he has created an enzyme supplement which everyone should take, so I felt his research was likely to be self-serving, (and I am deeply suspicious of supplements) and also because I couldn’t find any direct connection that he had established between the life of the enzymes in food, and our health and wellbeing, should we ingest only raw food. He suggested that if we eat cooked food, we should eat raw food first so that the enzymes will help us digest the cooked food. Again – hardly evidence that we should aim for 100% raw.

The raw food sites, along with citing Dr Howell and Kouchakoff, said that the proof was in the eating – go raw for 3 days, ten days, a month (each one has its own recommendation) and see for yourself how much better you feel. Well I didn’t feel better at all. None of these “proofs” hold up for me.

This post is really a continuation of my previous post – so if you haven’t already, read that first.

After mulling overnight on the massive discrepency between the raw food community’s “proof” and the actual paper it was based on, I thought, surely I’m not the only person who has noticed this. I searched more, and came up with an article by Jean-Louis Tu, a raw-foodist who had not only noticed the same thing, but had done a whole heap of further research into it. The stuff he said resonated with me, and matched my own findings. His findings included:

* That there are no traditional raw food cultures anywhere in the world. Even those cited by the raw food community only eat some raw food, not even a high proportion (eg the Eskimos). There were no tropical cultures where people lived almost entirely on fruit. In fact a danger with the raw food diet, he says, is an excessively high sugar load from eating so much fruit. The many traditional cultures who experience wonderful health in that they are not prone to degenerative diseases are still vulnerable to infectious diseases. They ate cooked food and they didn’t get cancer etc.  The use of fire, controlled by humans, seems to have begun at least 400,000 years ago, and for at least the last 40,000 years cooking has been widespread practice.

* There is a group of people who believe that if you eliminate all cooked food from your diet, you can eat purely from instinct – but if you have only a tiny bit of cooked food it throws you out of balance and makes you want more cooked food. The author provides two points of evidence against this philosophy – one that most “Instinctos” find they naturally eat more fruit and neglect their greens, so they have a number of dietry rules to ensure their diet is balanced. He also cites studies done on babies who are offered a range of raw and cooked food, and allowed to self-select. All babies chose for themselves a balanced diet even if it wasn’t balanced over a singe day. And they chose some cooked food as well as raw.

* He attributes the fantastic results many people experience after going raw as being due to a greater purity of diet, rather than the fact that the food isn’t cooked. For example:

  • The raw diet is relatively high in unsaturated fats compared to saturated fats, and generally eliminates all trans-fatty acids, which interfere with omega-3 absorption and is considered the most disease-promoting of all fats.
  • Since a raw diet consists predominantly of fruit and vegetables, eating this way fills your body with phytochemicals, antioxidants, fibre, and other vitamins and minerals which promote good health.
  • People on a raw diet generally eliminate all processed foods and associated refined products and chemical additives, which are known to be harmful to our bodies.  Also their presence in a diet crowds out more nutritious foods.
  • They also tend to eliminate potential “problem foods” – for example, since raw food is often equated with vegan, many people give up dairy and so benefit if they had a dairy-intolerance. Since grain is eliminated, anyone with gluten or other grain-related intolerance benefits.
  • Since 100% raw is so very difficult to maintain, in our culture, it needs a lot of focus and dedication. People who focus and dedicate themselves to this aspect of their health usually also make an effort, at the same time, to sleep well, exercise well, involve themselves in relaxation exercises like meditation and yoga. All these can contribute to the feeling of well-being.

* Some people experience a revolt after eating cooked food, having eating only raw for a long time, and interpret this as evidence that cooked food is a form of poison. The author suggests this may actually occur because the digestive system is weakened, especially after such a high consumption of fruit for a long time.

* Raw food diets, while they can have immense benefits in the beginning, for reasons outlined above, rarely work in the long term.  Ronald Cridland, a doctor with long experience of caring for patients on raw food diets reports about people on a high-fruit diet that “many feel quite well for about two years…but after that, they begin to experience low energy, immune problems, skin problems and fatigue.  Many of these patients are sleep deprived.”  Tu comments that the decline can be gradual and occur unnoticed, and by that time raw-foodists are generally so invested in their raw food lifestyle and doctrine that they don’t want to notice it.

* Symptoms and conditions that would otherwise be referred to as “illnesses” are often relabelled “detox” when on a raw-food diet, and raw-foodists who haven’t been “sick” for years still report frequent “detox episodes”. The point is to be skeptical when assessing how well you are doing on a raw diet.  Signs of failure to thrive include diarrhoea, absent or erratic menstruation, insomnia or unrestful sleep, low energy, lack of normal motivation, being hungry all the time, losing too much weight, loss of sex drive, more frequent colds, reactive nervous system, and in some extreme cases, rickets, congestive heart failure due to inadequte protein, and, more commonly vitamin B-12 deficiency. Even long termers find it very difficult to adhere to a 100% raw diet and so regularly backslide. Viktoras Kulvinskasof Hippocrates Institute – (which runs living-food health retreats) would give health talks and lifestyle consultations about the benefits of raw food, but reports privately battling bulimia – vomiting up raw food and binging on junk food.  He was so entrenched in the raw food business he couldn’t publicly admit his “failings” for a long time.

* The nutrient profile of a vegetarian raw-food diet that predominates in fruits is much improved by including some cooked vegetables and/or starches.  Beta-carotene in carrots, for example, is poorly absorbed when eaten raw, but when steamed absorption is improved.  Cooking fruit and vegetables reduces their vitamin content by about 10-25% (depending on the item and the cooking method) but it can also increase the bioavailability of some nutrients, so the nutrient-loss may be balanced.  Mineral loss does not appear to occur with cooking.

Please forgive me if I have made errors in summarising some of his findings – if you are interested in this topic, read his article for yourself.  Much of what I have written above is summarised from this page of the article.

Anyway, after reading this I am convinced that I don’t want to aim for 100% raw, that cooked food is NOT harmful to my health, and that to eliminate it altogether could be dangerous for my health. I do, however, plan to continue incorporating, say, 60% of raw food into my diet, without being a fascist about it.

Since coming to these conclusions, I have been back on the raw food forums, reading, and am rather shocked by the people who report “detox” symptoms such as their hair falling out, insomnia, cessation of their periods, and even a repulsion for raw foods. When they ask for help, others confess they too have experienced these symptoms after switching to a raw diet, but no-one, NO-ONE, suggests they should eat enough cooked food to eliminate these signs of ill-health, or that they should listen to their body and eat as much healthy cooked food as they feel is appropriate. One woman on a raw food forum described her pregnancy, saying that she went into “detox” if she ate more than 60% raw, and since she was concerned about how the detox might affect her baby, she persisted with 40% cooked food until after the birth. Sounds sensible to me, though I suspect it was not so much detox as her body letting her know what it needs.

I thought I’d finished my research into raw food, but something was still nagging at me. Dr Edward Howell claims that we need the enzymes in raw food to be able to digest properly. Is this true? I was doing a google search, thinking I should have a really good read, work out what assumptions he’s made and what studies he’s actually done, and then I found that good ol’ Jean-Louis Tu has done it for me. Here’s a brief summary of what he’s got to say on the topic. Please note that I haven’t cross-referenced his work this time to check it’s true – I feel a fairly high regard for his approach given the similarity of our independent appraisals of Kouchakoff’s studies.

Interestingly, the studies that Howell himself have cited are old – from the 1920s and 30s – there doesn’t seem to be any newer research validating his claims. His claims are, as far as I can discern, that in our lifetime we can only manufacture so many enzymes in our body for digesting food, and that we gradually deplete them as we use them up on the digestion of cooked food. If we eat raw food, Howell says, we digest it with its own enzymes instead of using up our limited supply – and the result is less ageing, less illness, and greater wellbeing. Howell doesn’t appear to be a scientific researcher – in fact much of his proof is claimed to be in a book which no-one has been able to find. He makes the assumption at the beginning of his book that enzymes contain the “life force”, and doesn’t even attempt any proof in this regard.

The main point that Jean-Louis Tu made, which struck me, is that researchers Tortora and Anagostakos [1981] found that when food reaches our stomach, the majority of enzymes in the food are destroyed. The food then passes into our small intestine, and it is here that 90% of the nutrients are absorbed, with the help of bile and pancreatic enzymes. So, it seems the enzymes present in the food we eat has a fairly small impact on its digestion.

Ok, now I think I’m finished on the topic of raw food. Please don’t interpret my comments on this blog to mean that I am against the eating of raw food – not at all. I believe it’s good for all of us to eat plenty of raw fruit and vegies, and nuts and seeds are probably far better for us in their raw state. I just don’t believe we should strive for 100% raw.

Since completing this research into raw food, I have finally found a diet that DOES improve my health. See Traditional Foods for a great, well balanced, satisfying diet that has resulted in fantastic all-round health for me.

Pink Champagne recipe

If you’d like to try your hand at homemade alcohol, this recipe for pink champagne is pretty easy:

Pick 800g rhubarb, wash and chop (I put mine through the thermomix, resulting in this fairly unappealing stringy mash, but never mind).

Put 5 litres of water in a pot, add the rhubarb, a sliced lemon, 300g honey and 1/4 cup of raw apple cider vinegar.  Here’s my pot:

Pink Champagne recipe

 

Put the lid on the pot and and leave it for 24 hours.  Then strain the liquid into a fermenting vessel, and top with an airlock:

Pink Champagne recipe 2

 

If you don’t have a fermenting vessel or airlock, just put it into plastic bottles, and put a balloon over the entrance.  This is so that gas can escape as the little micro-organisms do their fermenty thing, but no new air can go in, which would introduce undesirable micro-organisms and cause your champagne to turn into vinegar.  Every now and then you’ll need to “burp” the ballons, because otherwise they’ll expand to the point that eventually they’ll pop off.  Don’t even think about putting a lid on the bottle – this is asking for an explosion, and I speak from personal experience.

Anyway, once you’ve airlocked/ballooned your brew, leave it for two weeks, then drink it.  It should be fizzy and mildly alcoholic, and if nothing else, it should be delicious.

Alcoholic Apple Cider – Homebrew

Alcoholic Apple Cider - Homebrew

I’ve been unveilling the mystery of making alcoholic apple cider versus apple cider vinegar. I left a batch of apple peelings fermenting in water and honey, intending them to turn to vinegar, went away on tour, and came back three weeks later to find I had a delicious alcolic cider – not sour at all. Sweet and warm from the alcohol. Yum! I immediately started a new batch, but strangely, this next batch turned sour really quickly, before it passed through that delicious alcoholic stage. Why?

Sandor Elix Kratz provided the answer in his fantastic book, Wild Fermentation. It seems that when you put a sweet, fruity liquid on the bench, wild microorganisms from the air get to work on it quickly to ferment it. Within a few days it’s bubbly, and slightly alcoholic, thanks to the work of these microorganisms. At this stage, a different kind of microorganism is attracted to the brew – one that consumes the alcohol and remaining sugar and turns it into vinegar. If you want to make alcoholic mix, then you need to stop the vinegar-creating microorganisms from accessing your brew. You can do this by putting it in a bottle with a narrow neck (so there’s not much air exposure at the top), and putting on a lid. As the alcohol microorganisms work, they create carbon dioxide (the stuff that makes it fizzy), and if this carbon dixioxide isn’t released, the whole thing can explode. I can vouch for this personally – on my last tour I left something to ferment for more than a few days, and it exploded all over the hotel kitchen – yikes!

Anyway, now I know why my first batch of cider turned alcoholic, rather than to vinegar: before I left, I put a ziplock bag filled with water on top of my cider. I did this to keep the apple peelings immersed while I was away. Usually I stir every couple of days and that does the trick. If the apple is exposed for more than a couple of days, it tends to turn mouldy, which is not good. My ziplock bag obviously prevented air (and the vinegar-creating microorganisms in the air) from accessing my brew, but happily it still allowed the carbon dioxide to escape out the sides – when enough pressure built up, it pushed the bag out of the way, and the bag flopped back once the bubble had been released. I didn’t repeat the bag arrangement though, because I lost half the brew as it floated above the bag and overflowed. That’s why my next batch turned quickly to vinegar.

So.. how to make an alcoholic cider without losing half of it to my bag method? I simply put it in a plastic mineral water bottle with a narrow neck, and put the lid on. Several times a day, I loosen the lid enough for the carbon dioxide to escape, which it does with a little hiss, and then retighten the lid. This is called burping the bottle! You can do this with a plastic bag too. Simply put your brew into a plastic bag and secure it with a rubber band or drawstring. Every few hours, burp it – squeeze out the carbon dioxide but don’t let any oxygen in. Another way is to put a balloon over the neck of the the bottle, instead of a lid. As the carbon dioxide is created, the ballon blows itself up. But you need to burp the balloon every now and then, so it doesn’t pop.

My burping plan was foiled when I woke up the other morning and realised that since I’m going away for a few days, I won’t be able to burp my cider! I didn’t want to risk it exploding, and I didn’t want it to turn to vinegar. I did what the pros do: use an airlock. It’s a little plastic tube that winds up and down, and can be secured to the top of your bottle. Water sits in the s-bend of the tube. When carbon dioxide is created, a little bubble of it flows through the water and pops out the top. But no oxygen can get in thanks to the water. An airlock is amazingly cheap – this one cost $3.

While I was at the homebrew shop, I also bought a bottle capper for $12, and a bag of bottle tops for $5. With this grand outlay, I can now recycle beer bottles by giving them a wash, filling them with my cider once it’s suitably alcoholic, and tapping on a new cap. Right now the apples at the farmer’s market (and in the dumpster we visit from time to time) are old: they’ve been in cold store all winter, and they are starting to turn. We’ve been rescuing them by peeling and coring them then stewing them. The peels and cores go into a bucket with water and honey, and that turns into cider. I hope to make a batch that will last us the summer, and store it all in beer bottles.

By the way, when I was at the homebrew shop, as soon as I mentioned apple cider, they rushed me over to their apple cider kits. where you buy some special yeast and other various formulated ingredients and follow a very precise recipe. I’m sure that works, but I love the simplicity of my method: making use of the wild microorganisms as they do their thing, putting some food scraps to good use, and ending up with a slightly different flavour for every batch. It’s healthier too – those wild microorganisms are fantastic for our digestive tracts, and it’s better for the environment to use them than some that have been packaged up and shipped to us from god-knows-where.

Recipe for Wild Alcoholic Apple Cider and Wild Apple Cider Vinegar

Put apple cores and peels into a bucket with water and enough honey to make it nice and sweet.
Put a plate on top to keep the apple pieces immersed, or stir it every two days instead.

After a few days it should be nice and bubbly. At this stage you can leave it in the bucket, stirring intermittently, until it turns into vinegar – this could take a few more days or a few weeks, depending on temperature. Alternatively, you can pour it into a bottle or bottles with a narrow neck, and utilise one of the following methods of burping it:
– buy an airlock from a homebrew supplies place
– put a balloon over the neck and burp it from time to time
– screw on a tight fitting lid, and burp it frequently by loosening it briefly.

Taste it every now and then and start drinking when it tastes good. If you have any left when it no longer needs to be burped (not sure how long this takes – could be a few weeks), then you can pour it into screwtop bottles for drinking soon, or you can age it.

If you want to age it, put it into a clean beer bottle and affix a new cap. You can put in another teaspoon of honey at this stage, and I’m told that will make a nice fizz when the bottle is opened. Label and date your bottle and store it till you are ready to drink it. By the way, if you put this in a wine bottle and cork it, you run the risk of the cork popping out if more carbon dioxide is created. That’s why you use the beer bottle and cap – they should be strong enough to withstand a bit of fizz.

When bottling it, there will be sediment sitting at the bottom of the vessel you used to ferment the brew in. Apparently if you siphon off the liquid into their bottles for aging, and leave the sediment behind, you get a finer flavoured cider once it’s aged. But I was too meanfisted to shell out $16 for the siphon, so I’m drinking my sediment.

Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions

Have you read this book?

Nourishing Traditions – by Sally Fallon. I borrowed it from a friend and I can’t see how I’ll ever be able to return it! It’s worth buying just for the introduction alone, which provides an amazing catalogue of nutrition information – going into detail about fats and how to choose good fats over bad and why, explaining why dairy needs to be raw and from pasture-fed cows, not pasturised, and covering proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, salt and even beverages. Citing a long list of nutritional studies that have been done, Fallon makes the argument that refined and processed foods are harmful to our bodies, and that we need to eat as our ancestors ate, to achieve a healthy diet. Intuitively, this is something I’ve known for a long time, and have attempted to work towards in my own diet. The book bowled me over because of the number of areas in which my basic understanding of nutrition has been challenged. While I have suspected that dairy is probably not good for us, Fallon argues that except for those who have severe intolerances, dairy is very beneficial, as long as it is unpasturised and comes from the equivalent of “free range” cows. She makes a strong case for the health benefits of eating butter and cream, as these help us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Ideally, dairy foods should be fermented, enabling us to digest them more easily. Another argument she makes is that we would do better on nourishing fermented beverages which are more readily absorbed by our body, than by drinking plain water. She points to traditional healthy cultures all over the world who include some fermented foods with just about every meal, and advises us to consume fermented food often. It’s not just dairy that should be fermented, but most grains become more digestible and thus more nutritious when digested, as do a host of other foods. Soy products, she says, shoud not be consumed at all unless they’ve been fermented.

I should point out here that I don’t take everything Fallon says as gospel. She cites Dr Edward Howell with respect, despite the fact that I understand his work is based on a set of rather unlikely assumptions, not scientific proof. But she also cites many references I believe in and many of her recommendations do cross-reference well with other nutritional research I’ve done. I am interested, however, to see whether following her recommendations really do yield any health benefits for me.

Since I read the book in January, I’ve been making fermented beverages and drinking 2-3 cups of them most days. I’ve been eating kimchi every day, lots of it. I put miso on my food more often, and I’ve tried a handful of other fermented recipes in the book such as apricot butter (yum!), fermented bean paste (ok, definitely edible but I would only eat that OR kimchi at a meal and I prefer the kimchi), fermented blueberries (I didn’t like this much but Jesse loved it), and fermented porridge. I’ve also got the hang of adding a bit of whey to almost anything and leaving it out of the fridge for a while, which seems to be an easy way to innoculate food with good bacteria, and start the fermentation process. I’ve also sprouted and dried nuts for eating, rather than eating them unsprouted. I was consuming a fair bit of soymilk before, in preference to dairy, but now I’m only having a tiny bit of soymilk and am consuming raw milk instead – not loads of it, and most of it fermented.

One thing I’ve noticed in the last two months is that my period pain has been dramatically reduced. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but somehow I doubt it. Before I had Jesse my period pain was absolutely debilitating – drugs every cycle no matter what, despite being totally against taking drugs generally. Since his birth I’ve been able to get on with things a bit better but it’s still a toss up between taking drugs or having a very unpleasant day or two. But last cycle I just had very mild pain, definitely no cause for any drugs and not really a problem. And this cycle, it’s just been a few twinges. Does this mean my hormones are balancing out? The only change I can attribute it to is the changed diet. Maybe Sally Fallon is on the right track…